Ten years from now, a train will carry commuters from Garner through Raleigh to Research Triangle Park.
Buses will have their own lanes on Western and Capital boulevards. And residents in suburbs like Holly Springs, which has no bus service, will be able to take a bus to Raleigh and back during rush hour.
Wake County voters in a referendum on Tuesday agreed to raise the county’s sales tax rate by a half-cent in order to help fund a $2.3 billion transit plan that local leaders aim to implement over the next decade. So what happens next?
The local sales tax rate increase, from 6.75 percent to 7.25 percent, is expected to begin in April. GoTriangle, a regional transportation authority and provider, is in charge of levying the new tax.
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The Wake Transit Plan also includes other costs to residents that weren’t listed on the ballot.
Starting next fall, drivers will pay a new $7 vehicle registration tax and a higher driver’s license fee – $8 instead of the current $5.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners is expected to OK the new fees in December or January and instruct GoTriangle to collect the revenue in the fourth quarter of next year.
The first phase of implementation of the transit plan will come in the next year or so.
The plan calls for 30-minute bus service at stops in Cary, Morrisville, Research Triangle Park, Raleigh-Durham International Airport and the Wake Tech Community College campus between Garner and Fuquay-Varina.
Apex, Garner, Knightdale and Wake Forest will get hourly bus service. So will Rolesville, Wendell, Zebulon, Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs – but only during weekday rush hours.
GoTriangle plans to order new buses next summer and expects them to arrive from the manufacturer 12 to 18 months later, said John Tallmadge, director of regional services development.
In the meantime, “we will be looking at opportunities to extend service on routes later into the night and for more hours on weekends. We’ll also be considering providing more frequent service on some routes during the middle of the day or on weekends,” Tallmadge said in an email.
GoTriangle and other partner organizations intend to collaborate with Wake towns on potential routes and bus locations before moving forward. The group hopes to offer bus route proposals and seek feedback from the public.
Trumped up transit?
It will take several years to launch a commuter rail system and create dedicated bus lanes for Bus Rapid Transit, known as BRT, which will mostly run on Western Boulevard, Capital Boulevard, New Bern Avenue and Wilmington Street.
The county and GoTriangle are relying on federal grants to help fund BRT service and the commuter rail service. Though they have yet to apply for the grants, county and GoTriangle leaders were confident when they created the transit plan that it would qualify for federal funding.
Now that voters elected Donald Trump president, Wake transit planners are interested to see if the new Republican administration alters transit funding.
Trump wants to implement “a bold visionary plan for a cost-effective system of roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, railroads, ports and waterways, and pipelines in the proud tradition of President Dwight D. Eisenhower,” according to his campaign website.
But conservatives at Washington think tanks warn that the Republican-run Congress isn’t as keen on transit spending as Trump.
Wake leaders are confident they can execute the plan because their revenue forecasts are conservative, Commissioner Matt Calabria said.
“Federal funding can certainly vary, but our reserved approach to planning will help ensure that this project will be a success,” he said.
The plan calls for GoTriangle and partner organizations to revisit financial modeling assumptions each year and adjust if necessary, Tallmadge added.